Tropical Storm Flossie, which may become the first such system to hit Hawaii in 21 years, closed ports as it pounded parts of the state with “dangerous” surf.
The storm, with top sustained winds of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, down from 60 mph, was 165 miles east of Hilo as of 2 a.m. local time, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. It was moving west at 16 mph.
“It should reach the Big Island around midday Hawaiian time as a minimal tropical storm, maybe even a tropical depression,” said Kristina Pydynowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “The Big Island and Maui are where the worse impacts are going to be.”
Hawaii has not been hit by a tropical storm or hurricane since Hurricane Iniki in 1992, she said.
That was the most powerful system to strike the state in recent history, with Category 4-force winds of 140 mph when it crossed Kauai, according to a center analysis. Six deaths were linked to the storm and 1,421 homes were destroyed.
A tropical storm warning extends from Oahu to the “Big Island” of Hawaii and a tropical storm watch has been posted for Kauai. Six to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) of rain are expected on the islands of Hawaii and Maui and as much as 15 inches may fall in some places, the center said.
The heavy rain may cause flooding as well as mudslides, Pydynowski said by telephone.
The ports of Hilo and Kawaihae on Hawaii and Kahului on Maui have been closed, according to a U.S. Coast Guard statement. Governor Neil Abercrombie issued an emergency proclamation in advance of the storm to free up disaster funds for overtime and other expenses, according to a statement.
The order also allows Abercrombie to call out the National Guard if necessary.
“Dangerous surf” was reported on the east-facing shores of Hawaii, the center said.
Pydynowski said there is a possibility Flossie may weaken to below tropical storm status by the time it strikes the Big Island. A storm must maintain winds of at least 39 mph to be a tropical storm and Flossie has been weakening in the waters east of Hawaii, she said.
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